Saturday, March 1, 2008

Solitude In One Act

(a tape recorder lies on a small end table in an otherwise empty room. A rangy old man with a long white beard and crumbs on the corners of his mouth comes along and picks it up. He is wearing blue overalls and adjusts an imaginary tie on his neck a few times before looking towards something indefinable in the distance. He seems to be looking at a crowd of people who he assumes are watching him intently, maybe like people looking at an animal in a zoo. His face becomes serious and intense as he scans the faces he imagines he sees out there. Picking up the tape recorder he smiles briefly, raises his free hand in the air and holds up a finger as if signaling everybody to pay attention. He clicks on the recorder and turns the volume all the way up. After some empty air a voice begins speaking.)

I tell the time by television shows. Look at the TV and see what’s on and then I know, okay, Jeopardy is in the Double Jeopardy round with about half the questions gone. Must be about 7:15 or so. It works. Whatever. So, I mean, what you need to like understand is that, when it really comes down to things like compassion, you know, caring for others, giving a shit about their little lives they’re going around living, it’s all about like stacking up this like invisible bundle of good deeds in your soul. Making this like portfolio of existence out of all of your best work. Stuff like that is good grub for your spirit, man. Compassion makes you better, gets you on the bonus side of things, in the black, making celestial money that you can only blow on the after life. Or in the after life, I guess. That’s what it comes down to man. It’s all about getting in the fucking good graces of the lord. All that kind of shit. Being all buddy-buddy with the big boy upstairs. The exchange rate in Heaven is probably pretty fucking good these days on kindness and charity. You’ve gotta just like, well, even if you just like pretend to care about others, you know? Just as long as you do things for them. It’s all about the deeds bro. Making it happen. Let’s say you see this like despicable homeless bum guy like begging for change on the street, you know, he’s like sitting there with his fucking cardboard sign. Whadda they call that? Spanging? Flying signs? Something like that. Any who-how’s’it. Well, bra, you’ve gotta just like look at that pathetic fucking parasite sucking at the diseased and rotting teat of society, and you’ve gotta be like, okay, I’m gonna like help this dude out. I’ve gotta show some fucking empathy, you know? Just say things to yourself like, ‘That could be me. Poor guy. Never got a break. Bad luck.’ That kind of stuff. So you just like reach in your pocket and pull out some change that’s like totally not a big deal to you at all, and then just hand it over to the bum, just put it in his coffee can or his violin case or whatever. And these little fucking meaningless coins, these pieces of metal made out of like zinc and copper and nickel, these fucking tiny round little discs that ain’t worth as much as what they’re made out of, these rattling things that people sometimes collect in glass jars, these things that you fucking bestow on this poor dude camped out on the sidewalk with his raggedy unwashed dog like make his whole fucking day. He might even like smile at you and say thanks. And this should make you feel pretty damn good about yourself. You should be walking around with some like major points under your belt. Score. You know? It’s like you’re building all these like aqueducts in your soul for love and goodwill and all that other crap to flow through, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. Heaven is the reward, right? And so you should be nice to people, do unto others and all that shit, because it might really matter, you might need some of that like karma or whatever for the next phase of your existence, that is if death really isn’t the end. And who cares if you’re doing all the right things for maybe what some might wanna argue are the like totally wrong reasons? At least you are doing the right things, right? I mean, what if everybody in the whole world was like forced to like just be nice to each other. Even though they were just being nice because they had to, like if they weren’t nice then some dude with a big old Japanese sword would like come and cut their head off or something, the world would still be a better place. I mean, we wouldn’t have any wars or any shootings or people fucking other people over and all that stuff. Things would be pretty like mellow and just chill and it would be like some John Lennon song or something, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just the ends justifying the means kind of thing. I don’t know. All I know is that the next time you see some gnarly, whacked-out, dirty-ass, scumbag bum dude passed out on the sidewalk where he’s just shat himself you should give the guy a few bucks or whatever you can. You know what would be really something? If you then like don’t tell anybody about it. That’s the really hard part, see? Because if you really are doing this “good deed” for no other purpose then just trying to help somebody else out, I mean if it really is a totally like selfless act, then why should you feel this need to like brag about it? That would mean that you were just doing it for like selfish reasons, to make yourself feel better, to make other people think you’re like a good guy. I think there’s this Buddhist thing that’s like about this fucking monk, right? And the monk is like wandering through the desert or some other kind of place where there ain’t much agua around, and he gets really fucking thirsty, and he’s like really fucking parched, and he keeps wandering around trying to find nirvana or something and he stumbles on this like little pool of water. And then, instead of drinking the water he just keeps on going by, showing restraint I guess. He just keeps roaming around in the desert and he’s like dying of thirst and he never drinks any of this water. I guess he somehow like fucking extricates himself from this like really arid situation, and like finds some transcendental Zen paradise or whatever. The thing is, the dude never tells anybody about this incident for the rest of his life. He never like brags about it to anybody to show how fucking great of a Buddhist he is, to make people see how he exercised all this restraint and shit and, I don’t know, passed this test of willpower or whatever. Shit. Try doing that. That would really be something. Of course, it’s just a story man. I mean, if the monk dude would have really done that shit and never told anybody about it, then how could anybody know the story? No. It’s just another fucking myth, a legend. But you should give change to those street people, those beggar dudes you see all over the place these days. All those scraggily unkempt bastards piping the fucking stem and pissing in alleys. It doesn’t matter why. Trust me. Just do good things, even if it’s just because you want good things back in return. It doesn’t matter. Don’t you believe me? What? No. I don’t have any change. I would if I could, you feel me? Gotta keep it real. A friend in need. I’m a little low on the funds right now, ya know? So. Um, you gonna finish that burrito? Well. Sure. I’ll have it. I mean, I wouldn’t want it to go to waste. Waste not want not, right? Thanks. That’s some good shit. Hey…don’t tell anyone. Okay?

(the old man hits the stop button on the tape recorder and sets it back down on the table. He then begins speaking in a rather dulcet, if not eloquent voice to the audience)

So you can see, probably it is pretty obvious, that this subtle kind of egotistic kindness, not too different from the whole kill-them-with-kindness genre of thought that we were discussing and making so much fuss over earlier, is only a substitute for a seeming of self-centeredness, an outward appearance, the way others see one, and in so much as it is a “replacement gesture” or a “bluff of compassion” or whichever phrase one should choose to assign to its more egregiously flawed superficial-beneficial aspects, of which none is more suitable to our “false representation of self” than the cowering con-artist in disguise aspect, less crook than conniver if you will. Now, following a logic of slippery-slope abstraction and modality, not just using our syllogistic knee-jerk least-common-denominator centers of reasoning, and overcoming our need for predication and allowing for multiple types of reality and generality in our analysis, we can safely assume and convince ourselves that what we are doing is for the common good. Our actions, that we think will make us better people, even though magnanimity may not be at their core, may often still have beneficial results, though not unintended ones, for we do intend for these results, though we only do so as a consequence of our initial craving for self satisfaction. We can also deal in dialectics here, but, and I’m sure to all of your collective relief, we will not be covering critical thinking here at this particular juncture. Just be aware that there is a lot more to this than just basic conditioning and relationship-to-the-other types of suggestion…Ow! Stop that! You’re hurting me. No! Please. Stop! Okay, okay…I’ll…Ah! That hurts! Okay. I’ll just be going now, okay? No more. I’ll go back to my room and…no, no, not the chain! I promise I’ll stop talking. I won’t think anymore. Please! Where are we…what? No! Not the pit! I can’t go back there. I can’t live like that. The rats gnaw at my feet all night. I can feel them. It’s so dark and cold and I can’t stand it anymore. Just a little fresh air. Just some sunshine. No! No! I promise. Ah! You are killing me! Stop! Murder! Murderers! Mur….

(sounds of gagging and defecation and vomiting and a conflagration of great magnitude and more cacophony and then just white noise and then silence as the old man is dragged off stage)